Spanish Department Broadens Focus

The Spanish and Latin American studies departments have undergone a strategic shift: They have merged and expanded into the Department of Spanish, Latina/o, and Latin American Studies. While this change happened last year, the celebration begins this year with the hiring of Mount Holyoke’s first Latina/o studies scholar, Micaela Díaz-Sánchez (shown at right).

There will be two events in March to celebrate this transition. From February 29 to March 1, Chilean author and New York University professor Lina Meruane will lead a Spanish fiction writing workshop for students. On March 29, there will be a panel, Community Leadership and Career Choices in the U.S. Multilingual Context, at 4:30 pm in the Morrison Room at Willits-Hallowell. Community leaders in the western Massachusetts area, including several MHC alumnae, will discuss Latino-oriented community action and career choices in which Spanish is fundamental. The panel will be followed by an inauguration party.

Department chair Nieves Romero-Diaz says merging Spanish with Latin American studies and incorporating Latina/o studies will help the department better address the importance of the Spanish language in its classes.

“The interdisciplinarity of the department, with the variety of the faculties’ areas of expertise, makes for a very rich offering for our students,” she adds. With this shift, she also hopes to “establish stronger partnerships with the local community.”

“At MHC, there was a need to design classes that focused on the study of Latina/o communities in the United States,” says new professor Díaz-Sánchez. “This need was largely propelled by student interest and the desire of Latina students to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.”

Díaz-Sánchez comes to Mount Holyoke from Northwestern University, where she completed a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship after graduating from Stanford University. At Northwestern, she was selected as Faculty Member of the Year by the Multicultural Student Affairs Office for bridging student affairs with her work in the classroom, and for serving as a mentor to students of color on campus.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to mentor students and work with the department to continue building the Latina/o studies curriculum,” she says. “I look forward to working with the Latina student organizations on campus and I am also thrilled about the possibility of working with Latina/o communities in the Pioneer Valley through community organizing/activism and art.”